Brooks notes how so many people are (re)assuring themselves and others that, had they been in the shoes of those who discovered that children were being abused on the campus, they would have taken action (at least, more decisive action than was taken).
Brooks begs to differ, pointing out that history shows the opposite generally happens: "Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see."
Some people simply can’t process the horror in front of them. Some people suffer from what the psychologists call Normalcy Bias. When they find themselves in some unsettling circumstance, they shut down and pretend everything is normal.
Some people suffer from Motivated Blindness; they don’t see what is not in their interest to see. Some people don’t look at the things that make them uncomfortable...
As Daniel Goleman wrote in his book “Vital Lies, Simple Truths,” “In order to avoid looking, some element of the mind must have known first what the picture contained, so that it knew what to avoid. The mind somehow grasps what is going on and rushes a protective filter into place, thus steering awareness away from what threatens.”...
People are really good at self-deception. We attend to the facts we like and suppress the ones we don’t. We inflate our own virtues and predict we will behave more nobly than we actually do.
Those of us who have lost babies, or endured infertility, or faced a future without children when we always thought we would be parents someday, know what it's like to see people turn away -- mentally, emotionally, sometimes even physically -- when they are confronted by the reality that is our life.
We all like to think of ourselves as compassionate and caring people, particularly when it comes to our friends and family members. But the inability to conceive or carry a child to term is something that falls outside the realm of most people's personal experience or comfort level. They know it happens, of course -- just not to them, or to anyone they know or love. The radical idea that, yes, it can and does happen to you & yours can be overwhelming -- threatening, even, to one's sense of personal security, fairness and "happily ever after."
Are our friends and family members evil when they turn away or remain silent in the face of our pain? Evil is a strong word, & I'm not sure I want to apply that label here.
But do they cause us undue pain and suffering -- or add to the pain & suffering we are already feeling -- through their words &/or actions (or lack thereof)?
What do you think?
(See also my post about the book I read earlier this year with a similar theme, Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan.)